Apple lovers, describe what you like of your favorite tasting apple

I am on a quest to find the perfect apple, and decide if for real a variety of apple can be truly superior in taste. As a point of reference, I grew up in a tropical country, where mango is king. Mangoes can wildly vary in flavor and texture, and while I like apples, I find that the difference between commonly available varieties is not that big. Reading the posts in this site, I wonder if the limited selection in the stores biased my opinion. So, I want to try a truly delicious and unique apple. But before I go questing for it, I want your thought on what I should be looking for.

I will start by asking what you consider best in three types:
Sweet apples, Fuji type
Tart (ish) apples like granny smith and Jonathan
Aromatic apples, I hear they exist, with hints of other fruits, berries and licorice, but never have had the pleasure to taste.

Please let us know what is that you find more special about your favorite apple.

Thank you kindly. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :apple: :apple: :apple:

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I prefer apples that when ripe are: crisp, not dry, uniform (not grainy) flesh to the core, sub-acid, and have more flavor than sweetness. Note that any specific apple cultivar will ripen differently (if at all) in different locales. The cultivars I’ve enjoyed the most growing here in coastal-influenced San Diego county are Gordon and White Winter Pearmain.

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Arkansas Blacking. Lots of flavor withgout sweet or sour being dominant. Long storage life up to 1 year

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Look for apples outside of the store. Go to orchards known to grow lots of varieties. Read this website more. Apples probably have the most variation of any fruit.

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I second Richard’s preferences. I have a similar interest, I have been going to different orchards here in NE Ohio about every other weekend and ranking the available apples. My wife’s rankings are very different than mine so mileage will vary. My favorites so far are Karmijn, followed by Rubinette.

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Truly delicious for what purpose? My most fantastic cider apple (Franklin) is a bit of a spitter until you squeeze the magic out of it. Kerr Is a small pretty crab with a bit of an interesting berry flavor but once again you squeeze the juice and it comes out ruby red and tasting like cranberries, for me a must have apple.

I’m a big fan of prairie magic; sweet, slightly tart, crunchy, everything agranny Smith wants to be when it grows up. Holds its shape amazingly well baked. It would be pretty worthless for apple butter but on the other hand i hate eating fresh grainy apple butter apples.

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I like apples that are a good combo of tart and sweet. (Heavier on the tart!) I don’t mind eating apples that are not quite truly ripe, as long as they are not ‘dry’. Those apples tend to be a bit more tart. In a few weeks they start to sweeten. I like them at that stage, too.
Apples that are these things . . . plus crisp and juicy . . . and have a more complex flavor than most simply ‘tart’ apples - are Ashmead’s Kernel and Goldrush. Also Esopus Spitzenburg . . .

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Thank you all for the replies.

@ribs1, I only have one local orchard, Curtis orchard. I tried Jonathan there, and so far that is my favorite. They didn’t have anything too different. I’m willing to drive a couple of hours for an educational experiment, but so far the orchards with in that radius only have 10 to 20 varieties and many are the common store apples. Maybe the central Illinois climate only allows for those. The ones I can find in the websites of the orchards are:

JONATHAN (the most flavorful so far, good tart/sweet balance)

GOLDEN SUPREME

GALA (meh)

HONEY CRISP (great texture, good flavor but lacking depth)

EMPIRE

JONAGOLD

GOLDEN DELICIOUS (good flavor, warmer than honey crisp)

RED DELICIOUS (run away, at least from the store ones)

FUJI (waaaay too sweet without anything to balance it, people love it, I’m just not one of those peoples)

EARLY GOLD

MCINTOSH

LURA RED

COURTLAND (I have seen it described as flavorful, but the ones I tried were tart without depth, and the flesh was a bit mealy)

MUTZU

ROME

BLUSHING GOLD

GRANNY SMITH (crunchy and tart, simple)

WINESAP

I am going to Okaw Valley Orchard this weekend, to see if I can find something interesting. The end goal of this experiment is to find interesting varieties I can graft into some of my trees, so I can make crosses between them. Making the base of a hobby for when I retire… I am a plant breeder by training, so I figure breeding for fun sounds like a plan. And maybe I can find something tasty and adapted to central Illinois I can give the children to remember me by.

@Richard, I agree with your description. I too prefer flavor over sweetness. And I am really hoping to try an apple with a lot of aroma, and hints of other fruits. I have not found any orchard close enough that carries some of those described in this site.

@poncirusguy, I actually planted an Arkansas Black tree after looking at uncommon apples that may be scab resistant. I am looking forward to tasting it since I can not find it locally. I’m glad you mentioned it as a good apple. I’ll get back to you in 3 to 5 years :joy:.

@ansayre, seems Ohio has more of a apple tradition than Illinois, the PRI program notwithstanding. I dream of visiting the hocking hills orchard at four seasons cabins. The variety of apples Derek mentioned in this site is astounding. Unfortunately neither my birthday nor my wedding anniversary is in the fall, so convincing the husband to drive 6 hours “just” for an apple orchard is hard to justify. I’ll think of something. Maybe next year.

@don1357, I suppose at the moment for fresh eating and pie making. I have not yet branched out to cider making. What would you consider a grainy apple, and do they make good butter? Could you mention a common variety that is grainy as an example?

@PomGranny, I think we may have similar taste. I got one scion of goldrush grafted on a crab last year, and this year it produced one apple that made it to maturity. I thought it was very nice, but with sample size of one it is difficult to have firm conclusions. I am hoping next year we will get some more. I’d love to try Ashmead’s Kernel and Esopus Spitzenburg, they just sound delicious. Is PomGranny a play on pomegranate? It’s nice.

Drive to Doud Orchard in Indiana. Also, for a longer drive, go to Alber orchard in Manchester Michigan. Lots of variety at both orchards.

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You have two basic apple textures; crunch/snappy and grainy. If you try to use an apple like a granny smith for apple sauce, you pretty much have to grind the apple into puree first. What makes the apple a good baking apple (retaining its shape) makes it a really bad apple sauce apple. On the other hand an apple with a grainy texture will not hold its shape baked, but will pretty much fall apart into sauce as the heat goes up.

I have a singular tree suitable for apple sauce, Parkland apples. These are best for really cold areas between USDA zone 2 and 5; they are very early and hot summers can affect them in a bad way.

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I just may. I looked at their Facebook page and definitely have lots of interesting varieties!

@Ana interesting that you find the Fuji to be just sweet without other flavor. I LOVE tartness in all of my fruit. You talked about mangos, I eat mine just beginning to give, in other words, what most would call just under ripe, because fully ripe ones are too soft and sweet for my taste.
That said, I love my Fuji’s. They do have tartness and flavors I enjoy. I think that it maybe the difference between commercial, that you may have tried, and home grown. Also climate. I live in so cal, sunset zone 24. I also find the Fuji to be very forgiving in that , it holds it’s good flavor for a long time. Gravenstein, for example, is only good when you get it on EXACTLY the right day. When I visited Adams County, PA recently, we toured around and tasted over 12 varieties, all on the same day! (Yes, we were stuffed and it was fun!) My favorite, by far, was the golden russet. Honeycrisp was way over rated.

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Recently tried some Mutsu (Crispin) at a festival…the Amish were selling them. I was on day one at the festival and fairly early and i bought the last bag… people were buying them like crazy.

I can see why these are good for local farmers markets and festivals…they arent spectacular but they are plenty good.

My favorite store apple is Opal… they sell it at walmart and the high end krogers in the fall. The walmart ones are pretty bland…but if you can find them at Kroger in the Simply Organic Bags they are fantastic… no clue why they taste so much different. They store a long time too. Only 1 out of 10 kroger even carry them here…no idea why.

I planted a couple of GoldRush in hopes that they would rival Opal which i think cannot be grown here…

I also love Grimes Golden and Golden Delicious…

For some reason i mostly only like Yellow apples and have no reasoning behind it except that i do.

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I’m not much on describing flavor but will say that I like the newer varieties like HoneyCrisp,
But I still have not found an apple that I like to eat and grow better that Cortland.
They have a sweet and tart mix that’s about right for me.
They grow big apples… Not biennial. … Production per tree is the best that I have.
They don’t brown as much as others.

I think I’m going to plant a bigger tree or two of Cortland. Mine are all Dwarf.
It will take a long time for a big tree to produce but will last forever and should make a lot of apples
for someone…

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As my M111 are beginning to bud and are at least 15 feet or more, they have developed into beautiful large trees. The dwarfs are neat. Fruit on some of mine came in first year. They just don’t have the majesty of the taller ones IMO. For me, a mix is just right.

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I did! Thank you for the recommendation! I came back home with 18 different varieties. I’m waiting for the kiddos to comeback from camping so we can have a blind taste test.

I couldn’t wait and tried a russet apple and a red fleshed one (red sun). Russet rates like pear with honey finish, and the red flesh (red sun) was tart with berry hints.


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We finished the family favorite apple Olympics. I randomly group them in 4 groups of 5 varieties each, with honeycrisp and gala as the standard apples mixed in. Honeycrisp has been the family favorite up to now. Each one of us took turns blindly picking the favorite from each of the 4 groups, and then the selected 4 went against each other to get the ultimate apple for each person. The person picking did not know what variety they were trying, just the number.

There was a clear division on taste, with the children going for the very crispy apples, the youngest preferring sweeter, and the older sweet/tart. Soft apples were very disliked in this age group.

Memory played big part, with the husband liking the Cortland as that was the apple he grew up with. He identified it immediately from the group he was tasting. MacIntosh was also identified from its group.

I preferred the russets, with golden russet and razor russet favored within their groups.

When the 4 favorites were pitted against each other, both children selected Evercrisp.

Although Cortland and Mcintosh made it to the final 4 for husband, he ended up picking Rubinette as his favorite.

I liked Golden Russet because of the complexity of the aromatics. It could be improved with a bit of tartness. It was generally liked (picked out of the group) but only the final favorite for me.

Rubinette was selected by all of us from its group. So if I could only plant one tree, that would be it, as it is the crowd-pleaser of the bunch.

There were a few spitters. Universally, King David was not liked. Kids literally spit it. I was surprised as I thought that it would be a nice variety, based in internet knowledge, but really had an off flavor for us. The red variety was also disliked, especially by the kids. Too sour and dry. Fuji September surprise was not a spitter, but not liked either, too sweet, even for kids. Same with pixie crunch.

I liked the smell of the northern spy. They were the more appley smell of the bunch.

NOBODY picked either honeycrisp or gala. Compared to the other apples, they were rather taste less.

The complete list of the apples we tried:
Golden Russet
Hudson Russet
Razor Russet
Sun Crisp
Hokuto
Mutsu
Northern Spy
Nova Spy
Jonathan
Cortland
EverCrip
Macintosh
Pixie crunch
Gala
Red Sun
Fuji September surprise
Rubinette
Honey Crisp
Jonagold
King David

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I’ll add a couple to your list to try. One of our most popular apples is Sundance. It’s very reliable. It is a yellow apple with a pink blush and russeting on the top. To me it has a nice crunch with a complex flavor hinting of citrus or even pineapple. It’s a bit of a challenge to grow as it requires a lot of pruning and thinning. It’s also a magnet for apple maggots and cedar rust. Still worth it. These reasons may be why you can’t find it in commercial orchards. The apples hang on the tree a long time and don’t seem to diminish in quality.

Another is Enterprise. It’s a lot easier to manage. I admit I was disappointed its first year. However, it’s been a winner every year since for texture and flavor. I pick up spice notes with it.

As for earlier apples, Zestar is great. Most early apples are mushy and one note. Not zestar. There are also some orchards here in Illinois that carry them.

As an additional note, this year did not seem like a good apple year to me. Then again, I was laid up most of the year, so my attitude may have prejudiced my taste buds some.

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